Kolkata – Cultural Capital of India

Kolkata has long been known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage. As the former capital of India, Kolkata was the birthplace of modern Indian literary, artistic and its scholastic thought. The people of Kolkata tend to have special appreciation for art and literature; its tradition of welcoming new talent has made it a ‘city of furious creative energy. For these reasons, Kolkata has often been as the Cultural Capital of India and by far has the birthplace of many legends and famous personalities who have enthralled everyone through their art and works around the globe. Here are the few of many Bengali legends who have made their city proud through their success and achievements –

Howrah Bridge 1

 Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (Indian Nationalist & Founder of Forward Bloc)


Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was an Indian nationalist & a prominent figure of the Indian Independence Movement. He is perhaps best known for his advocacy and leadership for the Indian independence against the British Empire, as well as his early calls for ‘Purna Swaraj’ or complete self-rule, for the people of India for which he founded ‘Indian National Congress’, a radical and young political wing. He was the 20th century organizational & military leader who fought for India’s freedom from British Rule. His politics came into conflict with the ideas offered by Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji later allied himself with Japan to create the Indian National Army.

Netaji is a much respected  name in Japan. On 18th August,1945, Netaji died a mysterious death in a plane crash, which has been the centre of many theories about him surviving the crash and having a long shelf life after. “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe azadi dunga“, this fiery line echoed all over India during freedom movement, when he delivered one of the many historical speech. His contribution is no less than Mahatma Gandhi & Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who have been given much of the credit for the culmination of India’s freedom struggle. He also happened to be the founder of All India Forward Bloc, a left-wing nationalist Indian political party formed on 3rd May 1939, after moving out of Indian National Congress. None can perfectly describe Netaji’s sacrifices and his quest for the independence of India through an article or any medium. Not only the state of Odisha but the whole nation is proud of Netaji and his vision for a better India.

1. Rabindranath Tagore (Gurudeva)

Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, writer, philosopher, visual artist, playwright, novelist and composer whose works reshaped Benagali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the age of 8, he wrote rhymes. At the age of 16, he published his substantial poetry and wrote his first short story and dramas in 1877. In later life Tagore protested strongly against the British Raj and gave his support to the Indian Independence Movement. As a patriot, he composed the music and lyrics for India’s national anthem ‘Jana-Gana-Mana’.  Tagore wrote novels, short stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays on political and personal topics. Gitanjali, Gora and Ghare-Baire are among his best-known works. In 1921, Tagore established Viswabharati University. He gave all of his money from Nobel Prize and royalty money from his books to his University. He became the first Asian to be awarded with the Nobel Prize in the year 1913 for Literature. In 1940, Oxford University arranged a special ceremony in Santiniketan and awarded Rabindranath Tagore with Doctorate of Literature.

2. Satyajit Ray (Legendary Film maker)

Satyajit Ray had a great passion for music and art right from his childhood days, which set the wheels in motion for his journey towards his stardom and success. After graduating from Presidency College, he went to Santiniketan, the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore. He started his career as a commercial artist. Ray used to watch films regularly and in 1947, he and his friends formed a club – The Calcutta Film Society. During his lifetime, Ray directed 36 films, comprising of features, documentaries and short stories. Some of his best known feature films are: Pather Panchali, Devi, Kanchenjangha, Pratidwandi, Jana Aranya & Simabaddha, Aparajito and Apun Sansar. He also wrote around 25 storybooks, articles and a book on film making. Ray received many awards throughout his life. Some of them are: BharatRana Award and Academy Award (Oscar) for Lifetime achievement in World Cinema.

3. Sourav Ganguly (Former Indian Cricketer)

S.Ganguly‘Prince of Kolkata’ as he is fondly called, Sourav Ganguly  made his test debut at Lord’s in 1996 and scored a thunderous century to announce the arrival of ‘Dada’ of cricket. An aggressive left-handed batsman, he smashed every bowler out of the park and stumped every fiery batsman through his effective medium pace bowling. Lady luck smiled on him when he was handed the captaincy amidst all the match-fixing controversy and history was in making as Ganguly led India to finals of 2003 Cricket World Cup and uncharted territories of success to emerge as one of the most successful captains in the international cricketing arena.

An aggressive captain, Ganguly is credited with having nurtured the careers of many young players who played under him and transforming the Indian team into an aggressive fighting unit. Currently, he is the Joint Secretary of Cricket Association of Bengal and President of the Editorial Board with Wisden India. Along with Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka, Utsav Parekh and Spanish La Liga side Atletico de Madrid, Ganguly is a co-owner of Atletico de Kolkata, a franchise of the Indian Super League, which won the inaugural season in 2014. Ganguly believed that his legacy as a captain was that he was able to build a proper Indian team. History has more than proved his belief.

4. Swami Vivekananda 

“Dare to be free, Dare to go as far as your thoughts lead, and dare to carry that out in your life.”

Swami Vivekananda  once spoke of himself as a “condensed India”. His life and teachings are of inestimable value to the West for an understanding of the mind of Asia. “His words”, writes Romain Rolland, “ are great music, phrases in the style of Beethoven, stirring rhythms like the march of Handel choruses ”. He was born Narendra Nath Datta to Vishwanath Datta and Bhuvaneshwari Devi in Kolkata. He had launched a revolution that stills resonates around the world today. As a vehicle for his Guru’s, he has been an inspiration for youth around the world for over a century. Swami Vivekananda’s inspiring personality was well known both in India and in America during the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century.

The unknown monk of India suddenly leapt into fame at the Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893, at which he represented Hinduism. His vast knowledge of Eastern and Western culture made an irresistible appeal to the many types of Americans who came in contact with him. People who saw or heard Vivekananda even once still cherish his memory after a lapse of more than half a century.

5. Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose (Prominent Indian Scientist)

JC BoseWhat happens if you take a rich magistrate’s son and make him learn in a village school amidst the greens of nature? 

That  was the beginning of the making of India’s first scientists – Jagdish Chandra Bose. He was the first to prove that plants too have feelings. He demonstrated that plants are also sensitive to heat, cold, light, noise and various other external stimuli.

Bose contrived a very sophisticated instrument called Crescograph which could record and observe the minute responses because of external stimulants. It was capable of magnifying the motion of plant tissues to about 10,000 times of their actual size, which found many similarities between plants and other living organisms.

Although Jagdish Chandra Bose did invaluable work in Science, his work was recognized in the country only when the Western world recognized its importance. He founded the Bose Institute at Calcutta, devoted mainly to the study of plants. Today, the Institute carries research on other fields too.

6. Amartya Sen

Amartya SenAmartya Sen is a much-admired, award winning economist, writer and philosopher. A voice of the poor and malnourished, tirelessly engrossed in the problems of the society’s poorest people, he has devised practical solutions to prevent food shortage and starvation. This Nobel laureate has helped create the United Nations Human Development Index and was featured on Time Magazine’s list of ‘World’s 50 Most Influential People Who Matter’.

Sen is best known for his work on the causes of famine which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food.  This admired Indian Bharat Ratna awardee and writer has been a permanent resident of the U.S for almost 50 years but choose to retain only his Indian citizenship. He is currently working as a Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University and also the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor.

7. Arundhati Roy 

Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy

Suzanna Arundhati Roy is an author, actress, and political activist best known for her Booker Prize winner novel, The God of Small Things (1997) and for her involvement in environmental and human rights causes. Roy’s father was a Bengali tea planter, and her mother was a Christian of Syrian descent who challenged India’s inheritance laws by successfully suing for the right of Christian women to receive an equal share of their fathers’ estates.

Though trained as an architect, Roy had little interest in design; she dreamed instead of writing. After a series of odd jobs, including being an aerobics instructor, she wrote and co-starred in the film In Which Annie Gives It To Those Ones (1989) and later penned scripts for the film Electric Moon (1992) and several television dramas.

In November 2011, she was awarded the Norman Mailer Prize for Distinguished Writing. Roy was featured in the 2014 list of Time 100 most influential people in the world.

8. Mamata Banerjee (Current Chief Minister of West Bengal)

Mamata Banerjee

Mamta Banerjee is serving as the 11th Chief Minister of the West Bengal. She is the first woman to head the state. She has reached this point by defeating the longest ever democratically chosen government of Communist Party of India (Marxist) by a huge margin. This brought an end to 34 year long Communist rule over the state.

She is also the chair person of ‘All India Trinamool Congress’ which was founded by her in the year 1997. She is fondly called as ‘Didi’ in the state and in the country. In addition to her political activity, Banerjee wrote prolifically in both English and Bengali. She published more than two dozen books, including nonfiction works, such as Struggle for Existence (1998) and The Slaughter of Democracy (2006), and a volume of poetry.

9. Mithun Chakraborty 

Mithun Chakraborty (1)
Gouranga Chakraborty, better known by his stage name Mithun Chakraborty, fondly known as Mithun Da to his fans around the world, is an Indian film actor, singer, producer, writer and a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament. Recipient of 3 National Film Awards, he made his acting debut with the art house drama Mrigayaa (1976), for which he won his 1st National Film Award for Best Actor. Since then, he has never looked back there upon becoming one of the living legends of industry and dance icon, credited to his famous portrayal of Jimmy, the street dancer in the movie Disco Dancer (1982).

Mithun Chakraborty played role of mediator between Pranab Mukherjee and Mamata Banerjee, winning the congressman the support of the Trinamool chief in 2012 presidential elections. Such is the aura of this superstar, he is one of the most influential men of Kolkata.

10. Usha Uthup

Usha Uthup (1)Usha Uthup is an Indian jazz, pop and playback singer. She is well known for her songs in 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. She’s an icon to industry with her trademark bindi and kancheepuram saree, but when it’s about performance she leaves no stone unturned and delivers her finest every single time with sheer energy and passion for her art. After earlier rejections in her career she came back strong to rule the music industry even now. She’s probably the only Indian singer who can sing in various foreign languages such as Dutch, French, German, Italian, Swahili, Russian, Arabic and Spanish and so on. She is considered as an icon of modern Kolkata and is an active social presence in city life.

11. Rituparno Ghosh 

Rituparno Ghosh
A self-professed Satyajit Ray fan, Rituparno Ghosh has won 12 National Film Awards and many international awards in a career spanning almost two decades. His un-timed death left Bengali cinema searching for an enigmatic director ever since. Ghosh was born and brought up in Kolkata. Both his parents were related to films, his father was a documentary film maker. He completed his schooling from South Point High School, and pursued economics from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.

Rituparno started his career in advertising and his directional debut was Hirer Angti (The Diamond Ring). He won the National Film Award for Best Director for his Bengali film Abohomanstarring Jishu Sengupta, Ananya Chatterjee, Dipankar Dey and Mamata Shankar. He made his first screen presence in an Oriya film Katha Deithilli Ma Ku which is directed by Himanshu Parija and released in 2003.

12. Shoojit Sircar 
Shoojit Sircar
With his roots in theatre, Shoojit Sircar today is one of the most prolific film-maker in the country. He has created many award winning commercials with every top of the line advertising agencies. Such is the versatility in skilfully handling the concepts from the perspective of a human or technology while catering to both Indian and international clients.

Shoojit has worked on films for numerous brands, among them HP, Airtel, Ford, Bajaj, and Gujarat Tourism. He has also won awards for his features – the smash hit Vicky Donor won 3 National Film Awards and is considered a breakthrough film in the Bollywood industry. This film shattered the myth that only star backed films do well in the industry. ‘Madras Cafe’ was critically acclaimed while ‘Piku’ was a great success at box-office.  He had also produced a Bengali movie in 2012; ‘Aparijita Tumi’. He is the pioneer of representing Kolkata and its’ fine culture in his movies.


The list never ends as Kolkata city has pool of talent in it to showcase it to the world and achieve immaculate success.  An inspiring story for all the young upcoming generation to take up the challenge and make the nation proud through their work.

Tell us how you liked this article by commenting below. Did we get them all, or did we miss a few?

2 thoughts on “Kolkata – Cultural Capital of India

  1. Sayantan Biswas says:

    Add Ritwik Ghatak,Mrinal Sen(legendary filmmakers); Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (most prominent freedom fighter of India); Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Bibhutubushan Banerjee, Michael Madhusudan Dutta(writers & poet). Uttamkumar,Soumitra Chatterjee, Suchitra Sen(actors)…


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